Improperly Loaded Trucks Cause Severe Accidents

Posted by Randy Andrus | Mar 31, 2023

Cargo-loaded commercial trucks can be extremely heavy, weighing around 80,000 pounds when transporting cargo at maximum capacity. When cargo is loaded improperly, it can cause catastrophic accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cites improper cargo loading as one of the top ten reasons for trucking accidents. In this article, we'll discuss the improper loading of semi-trucks and the specific dangers it poses. 

If you've been hurt in a commercial truck accident, it's important to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced truck accident lawyer in Utah to discuss your case and your potential legal options. To schedule your free consultation and case review today, call 801-400-9860 or fill out our secure online form here

Why Improperly Loaded Trucks Cause Accidents

When trucks are loaded incorrectly, it can be dangerous for the truck driver and other drivers for multiple reasons. The overloading of a truck can make it more challenging for a semi-truck to come to a safe stop. When a truck is overloaded, the risk of rollover increases. If a truck isn't loaded correctly, it may increase the chance of the cargo shifting in the back once the truck is in motion. When this happens, the center of gravity can be thrown off, making it more likely for the truck driver to lose control of the huge vehicle. Another issue when a truck is improperly loaded is the risk of road spills.

Truck drivers are required to follow specific rules when it comes to loading and transporting cargo. These rules are listed in the FMCSA's Driver Handbook of Cargo Securement. The rules generally mandate that:

  1. Drivers must properly distribute cargo
  2. Drivers must properly secure cargo
  3. Cargo must not obstruct the driver's vision
  4. Drivers must secure all tailgates, doors, spare tires, and any other equipment
  5. Cargo must not prevent the driver from moving arms or legs

Common Loading Errors That Cause Accidents

Federal laws enforce a non-delegable duty on all parties involved in the loading of a semi-truck. Code of Federal Regulations 49 C.F.R. Sec 392.9. These rules include not only the driver of the truck who is responsible for inspecting the cargo before transport but also include employees who loaded the truck, supervisors, the shipping company, etc. This creates a good line of defense against improper loading. When something goes wrong, the multiple responsible parties can make determining liability for an accident a challenge. Thus, consulting a lawyer after a large truck accident is necessary. An experienced truck accident lawyer will work towards identifying the liable parties or parties.

Some common mistakes in cargo loading include:

  • Using the wrong strength of tie-downs 
  • Using an incorrect amount of tie-downs
  • Using worn-out or old tie-downs
  • Overloading cargo above legal limits
  • Imbalanced and uneven distribution of the cargo
  • Driver view obstruction
  • Failing to confirm appropriate cargo-loading work during final inspections

Warning Signs of an Improperly Loaded Truck

Being able to identify an improperly loaded truck may give you enough time to get away from it before it can cause an accident. Here's how to tell when there may be something wrong with a truck's cargo:

  1. The truck is leaving behind pieces of cardboard, plastic, or other debris; you may notice it in the lane behind the truck
  2. There's a tarp or covering flying loose behind the truck
  3. When the truck changes lanes, it seems imbalance or unsteady; it may sway or stagger, which could indicate that the trailer is top-heavy
  4. When the truck brakes, you notice a loud screeching noise, which could indicate potential brake failure or overloaded cargo
  5. The trailer doors move or swing as the truck is in motion; trailer doors should not move at all while the truck is moving
  6. Tie-downs do not appear to be properly secured; straps may be flapping in the wind 

If you notice any of these warning signs, the truck may be improperly loaded or have another issue. Try to get away from the truck by passing it to get a few car lengths ahead or slow down and get several car lengths behind it. 

Who's Liable for Loading Errors?

With several parties involved in the loading of a commercial truck, liability may span across multiple parties. The driver's responsibility will always be examined when truck accidents happen. In the case of truck cargo loading, the driver plays a large role and must follow many rules to ensure the secure transport of cargo. The driver should check loads before each departure and at regular intervals throughout the route. The driver should check the cargo:

  • At least once during the first 50 miles of travel
  • Whenever the duty status of the driver changes
  • Every three hours or every 150 miles (whichever comes first)

If at any point the inspection reveals an issue, the driver must remedy the issue before continuing on his or her route.

Additionally, some potentially liable parties include the shipping company, the manufacturer, the employees who loaded the cargo, the supervisors, or the trucking company. An experienced truck accident lawyer will investigate the situation to determine who the at-fault party or parties are. 

Schedule a Consultation with Our Truck Accident Lawyer Today

Truck companies often have a team of lawyers and work with large insurance companies. This makes it extremely important for accident victims to consult a knowledgeable and experienced truck accident lawyer. It's easy to be overwhelmed in a truck accident case. The resulting injuries, financial implications, teams of lawyers and insurance adjusters, and the stakes are all larger in these types of cases. If you've been injured in a truck accident, don't wait to contact a trucking accident lawyer in Utah. We're standing by waiting to help you get the legal compensation you deserve and need to recover. 

To schedule a consultation with Randy and his team, call 801-400-9860 or fill out our confidential online contact form here

Andrus Law Firm is located in Salt Lake City at 

299 S Main St

Ste 1395

Salt Lake City, UT 84111

We serve Salt Lake City, Layton, Ogden, Orem, Provo, Sandy, St George, West Valley City, West Jordan, and the entire state of Utah.

The content on our website and within this blog is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be taken as legal advice. Remember that every case is different, and we recommend that you speak with our trucking accident lawyer about your specific legal situation before taking any action. To speak with our lawyer about your specific case, schedule a consultation. 

About the Author

Randy Andrus

BIO   Education University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (LL.M. 1987) Business and Taxation – Transnational Practice Courses and International Bar Association Convention, Salzburg, Austria Southwestern University School of Law (J.D. 1984) Dean's List American Jurisprudence...

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